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THEORY IN THE DISSERTATION

THEORY IN THE DISSERTATION

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THEORY IN THE DISSERTATION

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  1. THEORY IN THE DISSERTATION Professor Janet Zollinger Giele Heller School, Brandeis University October 9, 2006 Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  2. OUTLINE • The nature of theory • Three main types of theory • Quantitative or qualitative expression • Finding “your” theory • Writing: Theory in the proposal and the dissertation • References Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  3. I. The nature of theory • Serves as a map • Main elements: • An outcome (dependent variable) • contributing factors (indep vars) • Statement of relationship • Defining characteristics • Parsimony, generalizabilitiy Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  4. II. Main types of theory • Focus on figure, ground, or interaction, e. g.: • heredity of individual • environmental influences, • interaction of the two • Work of Stinchcombe: • Demographic • Functional • Historicist Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  5. III a.Quantitative expression • Quantitative method (when counting, weighing, and relative magnitude are important) population-based • Theory is a “model” that takes mathematical form: [outcome]=[constant] +[independent variables] Y = K + b1X1+ b2X2+ b3X3 …+ bjXj Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  6. III b. Qualitative expression • Qualitative method (when symbol, metaphor, meaning, and reasons for action are important) individual-based • Theory is a “grammar” that links agent, purpose, means, and scene to action (K. Burke) Act = agent + purpose + means +scene Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  7. IV. FINDING “YOUR” THEORY • Be clear on your question • Relate your theory to your method (numbers or words) • Review the literature for main theories relevant to your question • Pay attention to which levels of theory—society, institutions, groups, individuals—fit your question • Strive for elegance and parsimony by reduction to key elements and connection to the classics. Avoid epigones and total novelty. Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  8. V a. Theory in the Dissertation • Ch. 2 of a 6-chapter dissertation: • Background and Significance of Problem • Theory, model, hypotheses • Methods • Findings (descriptive) • Findings (explanatory) • Research and Policy Implications Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  9. V b. Theory in the Proposal • Section 2 of a 35-45 pp. proposal • Background and Significance of Problem • Theories in the literature, your synthesis, your model or conceptual framework (7-8pp.) • Methods • Expected trends or patterns and plan of analysis • Research and Policy Implications Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  10. VI. WRITING ABOUT THEORY • Numbers-based studies (Quant) • Enrich the theory section of the proposal after writing the findings chapters. Be open to how the theory needs to be enlarged or revised and make the changes. • Text-based studies (Qual) • What is working or not about your theory? Modify in light of themes. Do you have a new question? Revise the analysis accordingly. Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06

  11. Selected References Blalock, Hubert M. Theory construction; from verbal to mathematical formulations.  Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:  Prentice-Hall.  1969. Burke, Kenneth.A grammar of motives.  New York:  Prentice-Hall, 1954, c1945. Stinchcombe, Arthur L. Constructing social theories.  New York: Harcourt, Brace & World. 1968. Giele, Theory in the Dissertation, 10-9-06